Herb of the month: Horseradish

Many of us are familiar with the prepared horseradish that you buy in jars at the supermarket. But this month we want to get down to the very root (see what we did there?) of this popular, pungent ingredient. Fresh horseradish might not look like much - picture a gnarly parsnip - but this base ingredient can be used to add fire and punch to numerous recipes. November is prime time for picking horseradish as its best after the first frosts when the leaves turn brown and start to die back. 

WHY HORSERADISH?

Horseradish is a relative to mustard greens and radishes. For centuries, it was used only for medicinal purposes. The early Greeks rubbed crushed horseradish root on body pains. Later, horseradish syrup was used as a cough medicine and as a treatment for everything from rheumatism to tuberculosis. But in the 1600s, horseradish as a culinary ingredient came to the fore in British cuisine as an unusual pairing for beef, oysters and cocktails. Today we are all familiar with the strong but irresistible scent of horseradish, and it's worth getting to grips with using the fresh root to make the most of this wonderful herb.

HOW TO FIND AND PREPARE HORSERADISH

You can find horseradish easily in the wild. It looks much like a dock leaf or large dandelion. If in doubt, dig down and pull up the root - horseradish looks much like a lumpy parsnip. If still in doubt, break the root and have a smell - there's no mistaking it! November is the best time for hunting down horseradish - after the first frosts, when the leaves start to brown and die back, horseradish is at its prime!

If you're unable to forage for horseradish, you can still occasionally find it fresh in shops. We've seen it for sale in Waitrose though it does only seem to appear occasionally which makes horseradish a great excuse to get out into nature and get your hands dirty, which will make the end result all the more rewarding.

On its own, horseradish seems harmless enough. But once peeled it releases its pungent oils. You'll need to grate it to get something usable to cook with. This can be an eye-watering process but do persist - you will be rewarded!

USES FOR HORSERADISH

  • Use with sushi instead of the usual wasabi
  • Add to your hummus or guacamole
  • Add to your favourite salad dressing for extra zing
  • Have with scrambled or poached eggs
  • Mix with your ketchup for an extra spicy sauce
  • Add to your Bloody Mary for the ultimate spicy elixir
  • Add to your favourite mashed potato recipe
  • Add to soups, sauces, and any recipe where you want to add some extra kick!

THE BEST HORSERADISH RECIPES